How to Remove Musty Towel Odors

Get the smell out of your towels with these tips

Towel hanging next to sink
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Out of all of your laundry, towels may be used the most. However, unlike most of your laundry, towels are usually used to dry off after you've made yourself clean. Have you ever wondered how clean water can make a towel smell so bad? Sometimes we blame our washing machine or laundry soap, thinking It must not be strong enough. However, the real causes of towel odors are usually much more simple to resolve.

Wet Towels Turn Into Smelly Towels - the Cause of Towel Odor

Towels are supposed to get wet, right? Yes, but they are not supposed to stay wet. If you throw your wet towel into the hamper or leave it wadded up in a ball on the floor, it's going to stay wet. And while it is wet, it is going to create the perfect environment for germs and mold to grow.

This is the same issue that happens with unsanitary mop heads that aren't left to dry properly or different types of cleaning sponges that fail to dry out between uses. A warm moist environment is the best for germs. They grow and their presence is noticed by the smell that suddenly takes over our previously clean towels.

While occasionally towel odors are caused by a bigger mess that they needed to clean up, just the water they soak up when we dry off is enough to cause a stink if the towels aren't properly cared for.

How to Prevent Wet and Stinky Towels

So now you know what causes towel odors.

I'll bet you've figured out a way to prevent them too. Hanging a towel to allow air to circulate and dry it after use is definitely the best way to prevent odors. You can also wash towels that haven't gotten wet in the very next load of laundry.

No problem, you'll just hang your towel up each time and everything will be fine.

If you have a family, this can still be a problem. Ever gone into the bathroom after the kids are tucked in bed and noticed that every kid left their towel in a pile on the floor? Or they get tired of being reminded to hang their towels, so they start taking them back to their rooms and leaving them on their hardwood floor.

One trick is to assign each person in the house their own color of towels.Now you know who the culprit is by the color of the towel left in the bathroom or bedroom floor. It won't take long for them to develop the habit of hanging their towels after each use if they have to put money in a jar for each infraction.

It's also important to remember to switch towels quickly from the washing machine to the dryer. Be sure to clean your lint filter regularly to make sure that your dryer is running as efficiently as you can. If you notice that it takes a long time to dry towels, you may have a problem with your washing machine leaving too much water in them, or with your dryer.

More Towel Odor Solutions

Sometimes even when we are trying to prevent odors our towels still end up smelling a little off. If this occurs, don't despair. There are a few sure-fire tricks you can try to get them back to fresh and clean.

You can try just one of these tips, or to really get the most bang for your buck, try them all back to back.

  • Vinegar: Try running your towels through a regular cycle with very warm or hot water, your regular detergent, and a cup of vinegar as a natural fabric softener for the rinse cycle.
  • Baking Soda: Next, run the towels through the regular cycle again using only a half cup of baking soda and no detergent or fabric softener. Just the baking soda will do the trick.
  • Line Drying or Tennis Balls: A lot of people swear by the fact that line dried items smell fresher. But they often don't feel as soft. One way to have the best of both worlds is to do both. Hang the towels out to dry. When they are dry, toss them in the dryer with 1-2 new or very clean tennis balls. The sound of the tennis balls in the dryer may drive you crazy, but it will also fluff up the towels and make them softer. If line drying isn't an option, you can dry in your dryer with the tennis balls, but skip the dryer sheets.
  • Regular Routine: A lot of people make it a regular habit once a month or every few months to do a similar routine with their towels. I've even put the baking soda in the detergent compartment and vinegar in the fabric softener compartment once when I was in a hurry. There wasn't any volcano of foam that spewed out of my washing machine but is cautious if you try it. Depending on how your machine works, it may make a mess.

Knowing the causes of stinky towels, preventing the problem, and these solutions should make this laundry nightmare a thing of the past.